To study the potential probiotic characteristics such as decrease of pH, microbial viability, and tolerance to simulated digestive steps of fermented soy beverage (“soy yogurt”) produced with lactobacilli isolated from cocoa fermentation (Lactobacillus fermentum TcUESC01 and Lactobacillus plantarum TcUESC02) during fermentation and refrigerated storage. The sensory acceptance of the yogurts was also tested. Samples of soy yogurt produced with L. fermentum TcUESC01 or L. plantarum TcUESC02 were collected during fermentation (0, 4, 8, and 12 h) and refrigerated storage (1, 9, 18, and 27 d), and submitted to pH and bacterial viability determinations. Tolerance to simulated digestion steps was done with refrigerated storage samples at 9 °C. Simulated digestion was performed in 3 successive steps: exposure to pepsin-HCl solution, bile shock, and simulated small intestinal juice. During storage, a decrease in pH and lactobacillus viability was observed. L. fermentum TcUESC01 showed to be more resistant than L. plantarum TcUESC02 to simulated gastrointestinal digestion. All soy yogurts showed acceptable hedonic scores (greater than 5 in a 9-point hedonic scale ranging from “like extremely” to “dislike extremely”) in sensory evaluation for flavor, aroma, color, consistency, and overall impression. L. plantarum TcUESC02 and, especially, L. fermentum TcUESC01 showed potential probiotic characteristics when considering pH, cell viability, and tolerance to simulated digestive steps and did not affect the sensory characteristics when supplemented to soy yogurt during storage.
Using a sequential test procedure for in vitro verification of microbial viability barriers of the gastrointestinal tract and sensory evaluation, strains of lactobacilli isolated from cocoa fermentation showed promissory results for the development of new functional foods.